Call Your Shots: Learning Bally’s Eight Ball Deluxe
Bally's Eight Ball Deluxe pinball machine is a tricky classic. Throwing back to the classic abundance of pool-themed games from the 50s and 60s, Eight Ball Deluxe modernizes it with voice callouts, an extremely punishing scoring scheme, and some incredibly satisfying shots that promote masterful flipper control. It's a sequel to Bally's Eight Ball pinball machine, which iconically used Henry Winkler's likeness and had a more conventional "shoot all the different shots to sink pool balls" scheme. Bally's Eight Ball Deluxe is a simple target-shooting game with elaborate bonus rules.
Eight Ball Deluxe Production Details
Eight Ball Deluxe is a pinball game manufactured by Bally Manufacturing Co. in 1981. Design by George Christian. Art by Margaret Hudson. Code by Rehman Merchant.
Eight Ball Deluxe Playfield Overview
The playfield is somewhat simple. We have a conventional lower-playfield area with the usual flippers, slings, inlanes/outlanes, and minimal shots up top. Notably, there are seven drop targets on the right, which are extremely important, a lone drop target blocking a saucer (the 8-ball), three pop bumpers with lanes at the top, a loop to the top, and a set of four inline drops.
Eight Ball Deluxe is a game that will reward delicate flipper skills well. It's also a great game to practice your finer flipper skills - whether that's tap passing, tip saving, or general ball control, you're sure to walk away a better player after a few rounds on EBD.
The seven drop targets on the right should be your number one priority. Being able to clear the bank is incredibly important to high-scoring games on EBD, and that’s easier said than done. Shooting the bank often introduces horizontal motion, which can prove fatal; balls moving sideways frequently find their way to the outlanes. Ideally, you hit these targets at an upward angle, making the shots from the lower left flipper very important. Other valuable shots include the 8-ball target in the top right, the lane on the far left, and the series of inline drops on the left.
There are a lot of targets in this game, but be warned: these are the infamous Bally targets we're talking about. Bally's drop targets tend not to go down on a direct hit to the front. They are very annoying. Soft hits or angled hits will do better. Don't be surprised when they don't go down anyway.
Scoring in EBD depends on how mean it's playing. 500,000 points is pretty good if it's being nasty, 1,000,000 if it's nice.
Quick Eight Ball Deluxe Tutorial
- This is a bonus game: Advance your bonus as much as possible. Each pool ball you sink (i.e., knock down) is worth 7,000 points in bonus. Collecting all seven lights the 8-ball in the top right; knock it down to complete the rack.
- All bonus advances carry over for the entire game. Build up your bonus early.
- Your rack progress is saved from ball to ball - the bank won’t reset for you until you’ve cleared it and hit the 8-ball. This is bad since it means fewer bonus advances are available. Try to clear the bank, and ignore everything else if the 8-ball is ready.
- Completing A-B-C-D gives you two balls for free (except for the 8-ball) and is a safer way of clearing the bank, although the C-D lanes are usually tough to hit intentionally.
- After clearing the bank, or if you are struggling with it, you have a few options:
- --Shoot the inline drops for bonus multipliers, which are worth your entire bonus
- --Shoot the saucer behind the 8-ball to collect your un-multiplied bonus, which is also worth your entire bonus
- --Spell D-E-L-U-X-E on the standup targets behind the seven drops, which usually resets the bank of drops (remember, bonus advances are better earlier on)
- --Shoot the far left lane for increasing value, capping at 70,000 points
- --Hit the “Bank Shot” target behind the inline drops, worth 50,000 points and possibly a special (an additional 50,000)
In short, the goal of EBD is to sink pool balls. You will be playing as either solids or stripes, depending on which player you are; there's no difference between the two. EBD is a bonus game, meaning that the object is not to score lots of points immediately or go for jackpots but rather build up your end-of-ball bonus.
Each pool ball you sink (i.e., target you knock down) is worth 2,000 points immediately and 7,000 points in bonus, which doesn't sound like much, but it adds up very quickly. More significantly, all bonus in Eight Ball Deluxe carries over for the entire game. So, if you get 21,000 bonus points on ball one, you’ll start ball two with 21,000 points in bonus. In short, this means that bonus advances made during the first ball are effectively worth triple.
Your progress on the rack is carried over from ball to ball. So, if you manage to hit down three targets, those three targets will be knocked down at the start of the next ball. When you clear all seven pool balls, the 8-ball will light. (There's no penalty for hitting the 8-ball when it's not lit, but it doesn't do anything until all seven targets are down.) Hitting the 8-ball with everything else down will “complete the rack" and locks you in for 56,000 in bonus. While saving your progress from ball to ball sounds good in theory, it is not. You want to sink as many pool balls as possible; since the bank doesn’t reset, you’ll have fewer targets you can shoot at.
For example, let's say you sink six balls on ball one. That means that you can only realistically hope to sink eight balls total next ball, for 56k in bonus. However, if you sink all eight on ball one, that means on ball two, you can sink eight more for sixteen balls or 112k in bonus. If your opponent clears a rack and you don't, it’s likely to be an uphill battle for the rest of the game.
So, to reiterate: knock down all seven balls, then get the 8-ball. A lit 8-ball supersedes everything else in priority. If you miss it, you’ll start your next ball with the entire bank clear and will just need to hit the 8-ball, which is incredibly painful and surprisingly common. It is usually possible to reset the bank between balls, but it is not something you should rely on since it’s incredibly hard to do.
There are four lanes on the table - the A-B lanes over the bumpers and the C-D on the inlanes. Completing all four lights will spot either one or two pool balls (depending on how hard the game is set), which can be safer than shooting at the targets. That said, the C-D lanes are really hard to hit at will since nothing directly feeds them, and the outlanes are dangerous. If you can alley pass (i.e., shoot the ball from one flipper up the opposite inlane) you're in good shape, but I wouldn’t worry about it if you can’t. Also, these lanes can be set as linked, where rolling over C can spot D and vice-versa.
As for A-B: you get one of them for free at the start of each ball since it's impossible to plunge anything else. The safest way back up top is to shoot the lane on the far left. While we’re here, let me bring something up: the rollover on the way up is incredibly underrated. The first shot to it isn’t worth anything, but it increases in value on each shot from 10k up to 70k, which is pretty solid. If you’re comfy with the bumper feed and can maintain control after each shot, looping this shot ad nauseam can be a viable strategy.
Anyway, once A and B are both collected, then there's an arrow up top that jumps around between the lanes worth 25k on a hit, also decent value. Note that when you clear all A-B-C-D lights, they all light up again, meaning that the 25k arrow will only be lit so long as A and B are collected, and C and/or D are not.
Bonus Multipliers & Collects
There is a bonus multiplier you can increase. It's advanced at the inline drop targets on the left side - each target adds 1X to your bonus multiplier, capping out at 5X. Bonus multipliers are obviously valuable - I mean, one target turns a 56k bonus into a 128k bonus - but pool balls are much more important early on. Remember that bonus advances in the first ball will carry over through the game, so it’s better to increase that bonus than it is to multiply it at first.
When it is time to advance the multiplier, I'd advise you to shoot at it from the lower left flipper rather than the lower right since the return is safer. Again, prioritize pool balls unless a multiplier would be worth enough to win you the game. If it helps to think about it, each multiplier target is effectively worth your bonus.
Behind the bonus multiplier drops is a standup target worth 50,000 points or a special on repeated hits. Specials, when set to be worth points, are also worth 50,000 points. While bigger points are available elsewhere, it's really good value if you’re comfortable repeatedly backhanding that target.
There's also a Collect Bonus hole - the saucer in the corner pocket, upper right, behind the 8-ball. This is pretty valuable but is usually set to not factor in bonus multipliers when calculating it (so even if you have 5X bonus, the collect only awards 1X). That said, it's only worth it if your bonus is already high. Advancing your bonus X is generally going to be easier and is pretty much worth the same thing as collecting the bonus.
Finally, we have D-E-L-U-X-E, the six standup targets behind the seven drops. Clearing a rack + the 8-ball will allow you to hit the standups to spell D-E-L-U-X-E by clearing the six orange standups. Completing DELUXE will reset the bank of drop targets, allowing you to further advance your bonus. There are two things to remember: first, while it should be set up this way on any EBD used in competition, there is a setting that causes the bank to not reset on clear. Second, it’s much easier to rely on getting a fresh bank at the end of a ball than to spell out DELUXE again. After all, focusing on shots to that side of the game introduces that dangerous side-to-side motion you should try to avoid.
In any case, it’s there and something you can go for if you want to continue building up your bonus. I’d argue that it’s not worth it, barring situations that accidentally clear four or five letters or are so dialed in on those targets early on that you’re incredibly comfy making the shot. Collecting other major shots, such as bonus multipliers, collects, or 70k lanes, will likely be better in value later.
Another thing to note: the backglass also has a D-E-L-U-X-E you can spell out, which is different. Spelling DELUXE on the standups will add a letter to DELUXE on the backglass; completing it will award a bunch of replays. Obviously, you can ignore this in competition, but if you were wondering why you can spell DELUXE twice, that’s why.
Overall Eight Ball Deluxe Strategy
Whether you’re capitalizing on early bonus advances or compensating for missing them, EBD has a ton of decisions to make at all times. In any case, your first two balls should be all about those drops. Bonus multipliers are nice but shouldn’t be focused on until clearing your banks. On ball three, you can still focus on pool balls, but the value is greatly diminished, and there are other things you can do.
The decisions you make late-game will invariably weigh the risk of making a shot to the value of making it. Advancing your bonus multipliers is usually going to be the easiest shot to make, and if you’ve built up your bonus enough, it’ll be the most valuable one, too. But if your bonus X is maxed out, or your bonus isn’t worth very much at the end of the game, things begin to change. You could focus on the 50k target, the 70k lane, or you can focus on the collect bonus hole. The collect bonus hole could be the most valuable, but it’s a tricky shot compared to the other two. Is it worth working harder for the saucer for a bigger payout when the 50k target is wide open? You’ll have to answer that for yourself when the time comes.
My philosophy is that comfort comes above profitability. Even if something more valuable is available, making a safe shot worth less is usually better. I’d even extend that to earlier balls if a strategy is proving successful - for instance, if you can hit that 70k lane with impunity, one could argue to forego shooting at pool balls altogether. I’d still say go for those pool balls, but do what you’re most comfortable with! Points are points, and if you're scoring them safely, keep doing what you’re doing.